Michail Antonio fully deserves to be West Ham’s leader of all time in the Premier League after scoring his 48th and 49th for the club and surpassing Paolo Di Canio’s old record.
After already being an attacking driving force in the early stages against Leicester on Monday night and then creating his team’s second goal of the match by catching a back-pass and battling Said Benrahma, Antonio showed genuine ‘number nine’ instincts to do two goals of their own.
To get the record, he clearly had in mind before the match, as there were preventive discussions about a celebration that involved a cardboard cut of himself. If anything, he may have tried a little too hard in the first half, but he relaxed after the interval and was then unplayable.
This has been around for a while. Antonio was a winger when he first arrived at West Ham from Nottingham Forest in 2015 and was later re-used as a right-back.
He then became known as the ultimate tool player and played all over the field, including a few games ahead, as late as the 2018/19 season. But it was during “Project Restart” in the summer of 2020 that the permanent transition to a “number nine” role came.
Antonio had a productive end to that season, including four goals in a game against Norwich, and has worked on his game to polish himself like a real striker.
Injuries limited him to 24 starts last season but he still scored 10 goals and provided five more assists. The progress is there to ensure three goals to start this season, Antonio has now been directly involved with 29 West Ham goals in his last 34 Premier League starts.
The only @Michailantonio? pic.twitter.com/Kojzsosq9M
– West Ham United (@WestHam) August 23, 2021
No West Ham player has ever scored more goals in the Premier League than Antonio, whose journey to this stage did not begin in an elite academy, but in a non-league with Tooting & Mitcham United.
At 31 and at most only 18 months in the role where he has finally settled, Antonio is without a doubt a classic case of late flowering. What is certain is that the Hammers will enjoy seeing him this season as he continues on this incredible adventure.
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